By Ray O’Hanlon
Forget the Celtic Tiger. Ireland is more like the nurturing tigress, according to President Mary McAleese.
McAleese, on her first official visit to the U.S. this week, lost little opportunity in trumpeting recent Irish economic and political success.
She also met Tuesday for over 30 minutes with President Clinton in the White House.
But along the way, McAleese took issue with the rather male-dominated image of contemporary Ireland – that of the triumphant Celtic Tiger.
“The label which has attempted to capture what is happening in Ireland is the Celtic Tiger. I don’t believe that we would have chosen that particular label ourselves because, of course, the tiger is a predator,” McAleese said in a speech delivered at Georgetown University in Washington Tuesday.
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McAleese preferred the image of the tigress, fiercely protecting her vulnerable offspring, ensuring, she said “each is nurtured and supported until able to stand alone, confident and independent.”
Regardless of the sex of the big cat in question, the claws were withdrawn all around Tuesday morning when McAleese and her husband, Dr. Martin McAleese, met with President Clinton.
McAleese, accompanied by a party that included Irish Foreign Minister David Andrews, Ambassador to the U.S. Sean OhUiginn and the former ambassador and current head of the Anglo-Irish Division at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Dermot, Gallagher, discussed with Clinton the Northern Ireland peace agreement and this week’s North elections.
McAleese also extended an invitation to Clinton to visit Ireland again. The two previously met when Clinton visited Belfast and McAleese was lecturing at Queens University.
Clinton, who was preparing for his trip to China, reiterated earlier statements to the effect that the day spent in Belfast was one of the best of his presidency.
Clinton was flanked at the meeting by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, National Security Adviser Sandy Berger and Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles.
During the Washington leg of her visit, the Irish president attended a reception in her honor at the Four Seasons Hotel, held a breakfast meeting with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, was hosted to lunch by the chief justice of the United States, William Rehnquist, and was awarded the Presidents Medal by Georgetown University.
Before departing for New York yesterday, she was scheduled to speak at the “Newsmaker” session in the National Press Club and attend a lunch on Capitol Hill hosted by the House International Relations Committee.
In New York, McAleese will attend a number of events, including the Irish Business Organization Trade Show. She will pay a visit to the the Emerald Isle Immigration Center in Queens and also attend a performance of the Tony Award winning play “The Beauty Queen of Leenane.”
She will also meet with U.S. Secretary General Kofi Annan and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani before returning to Ireland on Friday.